Mt. Kailash 6656m
Located in the far reaches of western Tibet, just north of Nepal and India, is one of the most sacred mountains in the world: Mt. Kailash. For the last two thousand years, people have made pilgrimages from all over the Asian continent to see this mountain. Besides the people of Tibet, people from all parts of India, the Himilayan kingdoms of Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Kashmir, and Ladakh, and from Central Asia and from even further have devotedly made the journey to Kailash. Though many people come to see and walk around Mt. Kailash, no one has ever climbed the mountain, excepting significant figures of legend. To climb the mountain now would be considered a terrible form of sacriledge.
Mt. Kailash is a sacred mountain of much spiritual significance to followers of four of the great religions of Asia: the Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and the Bönpo.
To the Buddhists, Kailash is associated with a tantric meditational deity called Demchog and his consort Dorje Phamo. These two deities aren't necessarily gods per se, but are rather seen as personifications of certain wrathful or passionate aspects of human nature. Demchog is an awesome, colorful figure with a lot of energy. Images represent him as having four three-eyed faces of different color, blue elephant-like skin, twelve arms and twelve hands holding significant objects, and he wears a crown of human skulls and a tiger skin cloth around his waist. His consort Dorje Phamo has red skin and carries a curved knife and a skull cup. She is associated with a small peak next to Kailash called Tijung. It is also said that Buddha once inhabited the mountain with five hundred other bodhisattvas (beings who have realized Nirvana, but chose to stay back to help others reach salvation). Though this isn't believed by all Buddhists, what is generally accepted in modern times is the association of the mountain with the Buddhist guru-poet Milarepa. Milarepa lived in the late eleventh, early twelfth centuries of the common era, and he belonged to the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Legends hold that he was involved in a powerful competition for possession of Mt. Kailash with a priest of the Bönpo faith named Naro Bön-chung. These two are the only ones that are said to have summited the mountain, when they competed in their final contest in a race to the top.
In the Hindu religion, Mt. Kailash is seen as the throne of Mahadeva, the great god Shiva. On Kailash, Shiva sits in perpetual meditation with his consort Parvati. Due to the apparent phallic appearance of the incredibly symmeric mountain, the Hindus identify the mountain with the lingam, which is a phallic symbol of Shaivism. Another Hindu belief maintains that Kuvera, the god of wealth, ruled from a remarkably rich and exotic city of pleasure called Alaka, which was situated on or near Kailash, along with eight neighboring lesser peaks used as treasure houses for the god. In another Hindu myth, Mt. Kailash was overturned and used as a churning stick by the deva gods and asura demons to churn the cosmic oceans in order to make Amrita, the Elixer of Immortality.
The Jain religion, which arose in India around the sixth century b.c., also sees Kailash as a spiritually significant peak. It has many goals, but one of the major ones is the attainment of liberation from the pains of burdens of a worldy existence. In the Jain religion, Kailash is called Astapada, and is known as the place where a man named Rishabha, the first Tirthankara, attained Liberation, called Moksha.
The Bön religion originated possibly somewhere near modern Soviet Central Asia before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century. Its main religions functions were concerned with control of powerful spirits, exorcism, divination, death and burial, and a few other related matters. It wasn't a very formalized religion for a long time, but it did have an important cult center called Zhang Zhung. Zhang Zhung was an ancient kingdom that covered a lot of western Tibet, but also some of the north and northeastern parts of the Tibetan plateau as well. The capitol was located just west of Kailash at the "Silver Castle" of Khunglung. Eventually, with the introduction of Buddhism into the area, there was more of a push to develop and organize the Bön religion onto a firmer doctrinal basis. While doing so, Bön adapted some principles of Buddhism and vice versa. In the ancient Bön cults, mountains were seen as important power points that linked heaven and earth, and in so doing were endowed with powerful cosmogonic and geneological associations. This made them considered to be the "souls" of certain areas. In Mt. Kailash's case, it was seen as the Soul Mountain of Zhang Zhung.
To Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, Mt. Kailash is seen as a cosmic axis, about which the entire universe revolves.